Sesame Street: Tackling Tough Economic Times Together

Sesame Street has always been out in front of issues that kids want and need to talk about, but that parents might think are above their heads.

I can recall watching the show as a kid and picking up cues about racial tolerance and how bigotry can hurt someone’s feelings. Or giving to others instead of being greedy. What loss feels like after a loved one passes away (YouTube).

Or how it is our differences which make each of us the special person we are…even little furry monsters.

After Katrina, there was an episode where Big Bird lost his nest in a hurricane.  The Sesame Street community came together to help him rebuild. 

For parents and educators? There was a whole curriculum program put together to help teach children to cope with weathering a fierce storm in their own lives.  It was brilliantly done.

So, when I heard that the Children’s Television Workshop had a special in the works on the economy and its impact on families, I had to find a copy to view. 

Above is a promo clip for "Families Stand Together," which aired on most PBS stations nationally on September 9th. If you missed it, you can view the whole episode here.

And you should, because it is wonderful.

As they move from table to table and story to story, Roker and Roberts ask how each family is coping and celebrate their ability to put togetherness before material things. Even so, the series of mini-docs will make an adult viewer swallow hard more than once. Jobs have been lost, and homes, families that were planned on the foundation of a solid-seeming career now teeter, mothers wipe away tears and proud parents find themselves having to ask for help — financial, psychological — from family and local agencies.

Although the emphasis is kept firmly on the importance of love and careful planning, "Families Stand Together" makes it clear that there is no magic wand, no fairy-tale ending in sight. These hard times are real and must be endured, sacrifice is required, and comfort comes not from a sudden windfall but from knowing that many have, and are, going through the same sort of thing.

This is the way to convey not only a sense of compassion and caring, but also to foster a sense of community that is sorely needed as so many folks struggle to get by.

dday recently examined the new census data, and it is absolutely devastating:

The U.S. Census Bureau has just announced that the poverty rate for 2008 was 13.2%. This means the number of people in poverty has increased by about 2.5 million, to 39.8 million. To give you some perspective, 2.5 million is more than the number of people who live in Detroit and San Francisco combined.

The only way that any of this gets better is if we all pull together and help each other through it. Poverty is an issue that needs broader discussion, especially as more and more families with children are forced to tighten their belts even further.

Huge kudos to Sesame Street for getting that conversation going.

Prior articles in this child poverty series:  making child poverty a priority;  mortgaging the nation’s future Part I and Part II; better childhood nutrition Part I and Part IIgive kids a head start; bringing poverty to the table Part I and Part IItrue compassion, Will children be casualties of the stimulus compromise?, Summertime: The Living Ain’t Easy For Children In Poverty, Start of School Means Two Meals A Day For Hungry Children In America, and Health Care And Poverty: We Are Failing Our Most Vulnerable.

8 Responses to "Sesame Street: Tackling Tough Economic Times Together"
Christy Hardin Smith | Friday September 11, 2009 07:20 am 1

Do watch the full show if you have the time to do it. The Peanut and I will be watching it together this afternoon and talking about things we can do to help folks out who need an extra hand here in our community.

So glad that the folks at Sesame Street started this conversation with a broader audience.

demi | Friday September 11, 2009 07:29 am 2

Thanks for this, Christy. I’ll try to watch it tonight with my family.
You are a very special lady.
I’m off to the gym. If I get up early enough for PUAC, I’ll tell you about the MOB outfit I bought. Weddings in three weeks. I’m starting to get ansty!

wmd1961 | Friday September 11, 2009 11:26 am 3

Nice trailer. no giggles in today’s FMB, but then it’s a somber day.

Millineryman | Saturday September 12, 2009 07:19 am 4

Thanks Christy for staying on top of this very real problem. I’m glad to see the Children’s Television Workshop doing this, I’ll have to check the show out.

SnarKassandra | Saturday September 12, 2009 10:33 am 5

I loved Sesame Street when I was little!

TobyWollin | Saturday September 12, 2009 10:41 am 6

Christy – the Right had gotten ahold of Sesame Street’s curriculum on this in the same way they did the Ed Dept.’s for the president’s speech to school children, I shudder to think what they’d have done to this also. Our local big supermarket is doing a program to fill a huge representation of a school bus to send kids home with food on the weekend. Unfortunately, everything is packaged goods (and some of the choices as far as I’m concerned are pretty suspect) – far better if we could make arrangements, as in the movie “Good Food” where the fruits and veggies at the end of the day on Friday would get packaged up and sent home with the kids for meals on the weekends too.
Sesame Street really is a treasure.

Raven | Saturday September 12, 2009 11:09 am 7

No eers today huh?

Primrose | Saturday September 12, 2009 11:35 am 8

Republicans watch Public TV and listen to NPR? I thought only their minders watched and listened in order to know when and where to scream “communism” or “socialism” or “fascism.”

Surely anything that smacks of compassion would be verboten.

I applaud the Children’s Workshop for their efforts, but the truth has got to be that they are preaching to the choir.

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